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Dominion gives discount for crashed online voting system

Clerk's report says staff will come back in 2020 with report considering a combination of paper and electronic voting for 2022 election.
Collingwood Deputy Clerk Becky Dahl, at the Voter Help Centre at the Collingwood Public Library during the municipal election in October, 2018. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

Collingwood received a discount on its bill from the online voting service contracted for the October, 2018 municipal election.

According to a report submitted to the Strategic Initiatives Committee (SIC) by Deputy Clerk Becky Dahl, the town received 55 per cent off the final phase of service.

According to Dahl’s report, delivered by Clerk Sara Almas at the SIC meeting on Monday (Jan. 7), the municipalities affected by a 2.5-hour outage in Dominion’s online voting system worked together to mediate a settlement with Dominion. The discount was the result of that work.

On election day, Oct. 22, the online system provided by Dominion went down for about 2.5 hours at approximately 5:45 p.m., leaving voters unable to cast their ballots during the outage. The polls were supposed to close at 8 p.m. that night, but the town’s clerk department announced voting would be extended by 24 hours. There were no further system outages and polls closed on Oct. 23 at 8 p.m.

Dahl’s report focussed on election accessibility. The Municipal Elections Act requires municipalities to run an election with a plan to reduce barriers affecting electors and candidates with disabilities. The act also requires the clerk to prepare a report within 90 days of voting day to outline the steps taken to improve accessibility during the election.

Voting could be done both online and by phone from Oct. 12 to 23.

Initially, a time-out feature programmed into telephone voting caused complaints, but the clerk’s department had Dominion increase the amount of time to prevent time-outs and allow voters to hear all the options available.

Staff from the clerk’s department also offered home visits to assist voters using a tablet, and they staffed a voter help centre at the Collingwood Public library during the voting period where people could go to register to vote and use town-provided tablets to cast their votes online.

“In reviewing the feedback received, the town was successful in providing an election that met the needs of electors and candidates with disabilities,” states Dahl’s report. “Through the use of the electronic survey ‘Happy-or-Not’ tool, the election was rated as an overall 93 per cent satisfaction in customer service levels and the ease of online voting.”

Dahl’s report stated most of the negative feedback came from the system being down between 5:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 22.

There will be another staff report to council in late 2020 with recommendations on voting methods to be implemented in the 2022 municipal election, as well as “consideration for ranked balloting and electoral boundary review.”

“In review of the feedback received in the 2018 election, a combination of paper and electronic voting will be thoroughly explored,” stated Dahl’s report. 

The staff report will be on council's agenda for the Jan. 14 meeting. 

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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